Which languages are spoken in your neighbourhood?

A comment on a previous post got me thinking about which languages are spoken in Brighton, my current home. Ziad Fazah, the incredible polyglot, apparently learnt most of his 58 languages using materials available in the public libraries of his hometown in Lebannon, and by talking with foreign residents and visitors, particularly visiting sailors.

Using similar methods, I estimate that I could learn at least 50 languages in Brighton, which is home to and visited by people from all over the world.

According to the local council, the main community languages (other than English) used in Brighton are Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, French, Mandarin, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.

Other languages spoken by Brighton residents include Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Catalan, Cornish, Croatian, Czech, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Slovak, Thai, Tibetan, Urdu, Welsh, and I’m sure there are many more, especially if you include all the languages spoken by people who come to Brighton as tourists, students or business travellers.

My local library has language courses and other language learning materials for 49 languages, and literature in 12 of those languages.

This entry was posted in Language.

13 Responses to Which languages are spoken in your neighbourhood?

  1. Laci the Hun says:

    I live in a village near Budapest where only Hungarian(of course) German and Lovari-Gypsy are spoken nothing else. so I envy you 🙂

  2. Polly says:

    It seems that I may have been too quick to assign limits.

    I can name dozens of languages spoken in the vicinity of my workplace.
    I have gained knowledge to varying degrees in Armenian, Spanish, Russian, Tagalog, Arabic, Turkish, Korean, and Mandarin just from people I work with.
    I know people who speak: Croatian, Navajo, Persian, Urdu, French, Polish, Khmer, Hindi, and Mongolian. But, I haven’t learned a single word from them, YET. It’s not easy to get enough conversation time in a foreign lang. to really build to even a low level of fluency, though.

    Maybe, Mr. Fazah is a hyper-extrovert who regularly chats with every foreigner (non-Brazillian) he sees.
    I, too, would be interested in knowing how many non-natives people get to interact with on a daily/weekly/monthly basis in their hometown.

  3. Polly says:

    Sorry to harp on this. But, this is the last thing (probably).

    OK, according to this webiste


    Fazah learned 54 languages by the age of 17!! while he was still in Lebanon. That drastically cuts the time-opportunity he had. If it’s true, it borders on miraculous.
    Language, unlike mathematics, takes much more than brains. It requires hearing and speaking experience. No matter how smart you are, you can’t just reason your way to a language. Most of language is idiomatic and even a bit illogical. (My frustration with Russian numbers leaps to mind)

    Wikipedia says that he learned most of the 58 before he was 20. Why stop at 58, if that’s the case? Why not 116 by age 40? If anything, it should get easier as vocabulary overlaps more and more.

    (Nothing against the guy, if I cared about nationalities, I would have good reason to be proud of him, myself!)

  4. TJ says:

    There is some number of things that might be considered here as well.
    If you managed to learn french or spanish then you got a grip on most of the romance languages because of the large range of similarities. If you learnt German then you can have a grip on English, Dutch and other north european (or let’s say germanic in general) languages, and needless to say the big similairities of course between Danish and Norwegian for example! This consideration only can raise the number up to 10 languages or maybe more a bit.
    Moreover, the man is old now and we know how things were before. Most of the idioms we have now in the languages all over Europe in special are affected largely by English and by scientific names as well as cultural influence from the young generations that tend sometimes to make up some new terms for new made stuff for anything like that. Lot of such phenomenon didn’t exist I guess long time ago, maybe when this man was in his 17 or 20, thus idioms effect can be regarded as “low.”
    Lebanon by itself is in fact a multicultural community, like the US, but within eastern limits. In Lebanon til this very day lot of villages and areas are named after their original syriac names (that’s why for us sometimes we think they are weird names) and hence we can guess that this man was in fact affected directly by his surroundings in the first place.
    Add to that, there is nothing weird in learning 2 languages at the same time or even 3. I myself tried my luck with some German and Irish gaelic in the same period of time, while chasing over some bits of other languages from time to time like Aramaic or Hebrew. I believe it just needs the capacity in the brain to store and manage such information.
    They mentioned the man can speak several langauges but it’s not mentioned to what extent. Maybe he can use the languages up to some limits for his own needs for example! Like for business stuff, getting along with someone, and so on. I myself although I can speak and understand most of the English I would read in my life, I still would be lost when I read English related to finance or to literature and so on, mainly because my education is scientific, but does that make me unable to understand english in general? I don’t think so!

  5. Chibi says:

    Well, I live in a 100% white town in Connecticut, USA…

    Other than the obvious English, other languages I know that I can practice:

    -Macedonian [my friend was born in Macedonia and her whole family speaks it]
    -Chinese [of the Mandarin “dialect”…or language, whatever]
    -Chinese [of the Cantonese “dialect”]

    Most of these come from familes whom I know speak these languages. Spanish is just a given because I live in the US (but seriously, I’ve seen quite a few Mexicans around here, and happen to know someone who speaks Spanish). Others are from language teachers who teach at the middle/high schools.

  6. pg says:

    [i]Wikipedia says that he learned most of the 58 before he was 20. Why stop at 58, if that’s the case? Why not 116 by age 40? If anything, it should get easier as vocabulary overlaps more and more.[/i]

    This, and answers to questions regarding Ziad’s fluency can be answered by reading the thread: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=289&PN=1

    FWIW, I believe he said he stopped because his interests moved on to teaching languages instead of learning them, among other things. And of the 50-odd languages he knows, they are all at approximately educated foreigner fluency, with some of them at educated native levels.

    Living in a large city, I imagine there are a LOT of languages I could come across daily if I made the effort. It would be fun, as I would like to find people to converse with in Spanish and French. :^)

  7. vector says:

    milwaukee, usa…
    you’ll hear a good few different ones in different parts of town, but the main ones are english, mexican & puerto rican spanish, mandarin, arabic, hindi, russian, and hmong.

    apparently milwaukee has one of the largest hmong populations in the world outside of their native laos.

    just about every official city government document i’ve ever seen is in english, spanish, russian, and hmong at a bare minimum. often chinese as well.

  8. vector says:

    i forgot to mention, there’s a decent amount of hebrew spoken here as well.

  9. Mike says:

    In my neighborhood (meaning pretty much just my street), there are speakers of English, Korean, German, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and possibly more.

    I also know that in my town we have large numbers of Tagalog, Visayan, and Ilokano speakers, as well as a considerable Spanish-speaking population. Add to that Lithuanian, Arabic, Farsi, and Polish… Hmm, that’s all I can think of for now, but I’m sure there are more.

  10. T-Moor says:

    Well, in my part of the world, to be precise, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Central Asia, former USSR 🙂 we live in a neighbourhood, where you may hear Russian, Uzbek, Tajik, Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Turkish, Ukrainian, Belorusian and many other languages of the nations, who lived under the Soviet regime. I myself can speak Russian, Uzbek, Tajik, English, Spanish, can read Arabic and now trying to learn some German 😉

  11. SamD says:

    English is the obvious answer in Youngstown, Ohio.

    However, we have one of the largest Slovak populations in the USA. We also have many Italian-Americans and some Spanish-speakers, more Puerto Rican than anything else.

    There are Greek-speakers in Campbell, and speakers of many Slavic languages throughout the metropolitan area. The university attracts a number of Arabic speakers and speakers of a few Indian languages as well as other East Asian languages.

    There are almost certainly a few others represented as well in much smaller numbers.

  12. Suze says:

    Well here in Rochester in south east England most people inevitably speak English. The main minority groups here speak Bengali, Punjabi and Polish (the Poles have all arrived in the last couple years, and as a Polish speaker myself I have gotten quite involved with them).

    I’m sure many other languages are spoken around town, so I can only speak for people I know – but there is a family who speak Welsh at home, a Filipino woman who prefers to use Spanish over Tagalog/Filipino or English, an Iranian family who speak Farsi and French, a South African guy who speaks Zulu (and is trying to teach my husband and me the clicks) and a couple from Singapore who speak Cantonese first, English second and Malay third.

  13. Stuart says:

    As a native of Brighton, I can vouch for its linguistic variation. I remember when I was younger that you rarely heard much beyond the Western European languages of the students studying at all the language schools, along with the Indian and Far East languages of recent immigrants. Lately though I notice that there are a lot more Eastern Europeans, Latin Americans, and Asians in general in town.

    All in all, this just makes my game of language spotting all the more interesting!

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